The way the world does business
is changing has changed. There can be no doubt that the world wide web has forever changed the landscape of how the world conducts its business.
The playing field is (somewhat) level, and barriers to entry for the aspiring internet entrepreneur are few. But the question arises for those contemplating the jump in to ecommerce, what platform should I use?
There are numerous different platforms available for use from free to expensive, from easy to set up to needing an expert to get you running. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list of ecommerce platforms at all! I’ve picked a couple of the more popular tools that I’m familiar with and that I think might be beneficial for those of you who are trying to set out in to the ecommerce world.
Some are subscription based, some are open source, some are proprietary paid platforms. If you’re looking to launch a store you really can’t go wrong with any of these.
- Uber Cart – This is an off-shoot of the popular Drupal content management system. I’ve got a test store that I’m developing now. Once you’re used to how Drupal works, it seems to be fairly easy to use. If you check the UberCart website there are a lot of stellar examples of sites built using this cart. One in particular is the store at Lullabot.com. While this is a really great option to use, this cart is defintely not for the beginner. Work with a Drupal developer in particular if you want to use this cart.
- Magento Commerce – Don’t let the "open source" name fool you, this is an absolute power-house ecommerce platform unrivaled by any other shopping cart software – proprietary, open source, or enterprise – that I’ve thus far seen. That being said it’s relatively difficult to get set up and deployed, and there is a pretty steep learning curve for actually running a store on it, and even moreso if you want to develop a custom theme/skin. Like UberCart above, this one is in no way appropriate for a beginner, or someone who’s not sure what they’re doing. If you do, it can be a labor of love, but its price point – free (for the community version) is perfect. However, if you are willing to spend a small amount of money on a custom theme with a little know-how, this can be a really great option.
- ZenCart – This is a popular open source platform. I’ve not personally developed any stores using it, as I tend to use Magento, but it gets really good reviews and there is a strong community behind it. There are numerous stores built using ZenCart, and chances are you’ve run across them in your internet shopping at some point.
- OSCommerce – It would seem that development on this project has slowed down a bit, but there is still a really strong community behind this one too. It’s not too difficult to get installed and configured, and has tons of available modules/plugins for extensive customization. (I’ve worked with this one, but dropped it in favor of Magento.)
One Stop Shop
- Volusion – This is a very popular all-in-one solution. You don’t need separate hosting, and there is little if any customization that needs to be done outside their service. Once you sign up for an account with them, add your products and content, and you’re pretty much done. Much more appropriate for someone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of time and effort working with hosing companies and doing custom development, this platform is a great place for getting your store up fairly easily.
- Yahoo Small Business EcommerceThis service is very much similar to the one listed above. It’s a great one-stop-shop offering, but Yahoo may nickel and dime you to death with the add-ons they sell along with it. That being said, it’s extremely powerful and you can really build a powerful store with it – small or large. The plus side to this one is its integration with Yahoo at large. Pay-per-click campaigns and other Yahoo Commerce offerings are available to you right through your management portal if you should chose to use such things.
- Amazon Webstores – This is a really good option for getting started in ecommerce, as it’s a very simple set up. Their set-up wizard will take you through everything you need in order to get your store up and running. This would be a great option for someone who is new to the ecommerce game. The interface is customizeable through your control panel so it won’t have that canned look to it, and managing your sales through this one is very easy.
- Ebay ProStores – This is Ebay’s version of the Amazon store mentioned above. I’ve heard mixed reviews, but its integration with Ebay could really be an asset for the Ebay sellers of the world. This is another one that could be good for beginners.
Paid Cart Platforms
- TradingEye – This is one that you would need to work with a designer/developer to get up and running (unless of course you’re familiar with such work yourself) and was developed primarily with designers in mind. This one is a no-frills, honest to goodness, sound cart application that gives you a solid platform on which to build your store. Think of Magento, without a lot of the frills associated with Magento. This one comes with a price-tag and it’s cheap compared to some of the other enterprise packages out there.
- FoxyCart – This is really a great cart and easy to use (for designers). You can easily integrate it in to a regular website and it can be customized fairly significantly, or run easily out of the box. It really couldn’t be easier to work with. I highly recommend it!
I’ve listed those that I’m relatively with. I know that there are platforms available for WordPress, and Joomla CMS platforms as well, but I don’t really work with those platforms as often as I do with Drupal and Magento. There are also several very large platforms that I’ve excluded as they are just way too expensive for the small business-minded entrepreneur. Carts like the Magento Enterprise Version, and ASPDotNet Storefront are great platforms in their own right, but for most they’re simply beyond reach financially unless you’re a huge company with a lot of resources to pour in to a cart.
I hope this helps – Let me know if you have any questions or comments below.